Atheists and gays live shorter lives

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Re: Atheists and gays live shorter lives

#41  Postby crank » May 27, 2011 2:48 pm

kiore wrote:Picking a single indicator and correlating it to group rather than individual life expectancy is problematic at the least.
In his work on epidemiology that arose from the White Hall Studies wiki article here Michael Marmot author of the Status Syndrome identified social gradient as a powerful predictor of life expectancy. abstract here.
Some of the predictors to group (rather than individual) life expectancy were noted to be educational level and social position (status) within society, people with post graduate degrees live longer than those with graduate degrees who live longer than under graduates etc, and senior managers having a longer life expectancy than middle managers and so on. Some of the more astounding links noted were that hollywood actors who had won Oscars (as a group) lived significantly longer than those just nominated, the degree of difference was similar to the life expectancy difference between smokers and non-smokers, so a significant difference indeed. These markers, Degree, Oscar etc seem to have no intrinsic value to group life expectancy, but rather suggest a number of other factors in process. Picking a single indicator, religion or no religion could be classed in the same category as Oscar no Oscar, perhaps what is being measured is something else. I doubt the accuracy of many of the 'religious people live longer' studies anyway as really indicating what they proclaim to. Likewise the 'gays live less long' studies, what is actually being measured is not at all clear.


Good stuff. I think all the latest research indicates that those living in more favorable social contexts live longer, e.g., many close friends and family, higher social status>>less stress since usually in more control over ones life, Oscar winner>>you are appreciated and looked up to by your peers... As social animals, should it be a surprise that this obtains? Gays as noted earlier, are subject to many social negatives, most definitely often feel no control over large aspects of their lives like not even being able to be themselves lest they be outed. The teen suicide rate amongst gays is going to be a tad negative on longevity. Church affords an expanding of who is family with all the unquestioning, non-critical acceptance and love that results, more bulwark to fend off the stresses.

Is it all stresses of some kind? A recent finding shows some do better in stressful environments, but I think that was 'pressure' stress-as in high pressure job, as opposed to the life stresses we incur trying to negotiate the social and family scenes around us. I know a lot work shows how stress is detrimental to the body, maybe more needs be done on snipping that link.
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Re: Atheists and gays live shorter lives

#42  Postby Shrunk » May 27, 2011 5:17 pm

I'd just like to emphasize that, so far, we don't even have any evidence here that homosexuality has any effect on longetivity, other than Paul Cameron's "studies" which, not to put too fine a point on it, are outright lies.

Does anyone know of any actual evidence on the issue? If not, we don't even need to speculate on what the explanation of the observation might be, since the observation itself doesn't even exist.
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Re: Atheists and gays live shorter lives

#43  Postby kiore » May 27, 2011 6:04 pm

Shrunk wrote:I'd just like to emphasize that, so far, we don't even have any evidence here that homosexuality has any effect on longetivity, other than Paul Cameron's "studies" which, not to put too fine a point on it, are outright lies.

Does anyone know of any actual evidence on the issue? If not, we don't even need to speculate on what the explanation of the observation might be, since the observation itself doesn't even exist.


Indeed, I am not sure any serious epidemiological studies over long time periods have even used this as a group marker, but just for fun we could perhaps dig up some data that indicates atheists or gays or ambidexterous redhaired morris dancers have above average levels of education, or rank higher on some measure of social gradient. We could then use serious data like the White Hall studies to declare their group life expectancy to be higher than another selected group's. An ambidexterous redhaired morris dancer could then read about the report on the abstract of the preliminary findings of this study in his/her local newspaper and feel (undeservedly I might add) that they will outlive their neighbour belonging to the other group.
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Re: Atheists and gays live shorter lives

#44  Postby kiore » May 27, 2011 6:11 pm

By the way even if we did find data indicating that atheists or gays had a higher level of education or some other status or social gradient measure, it wouldn't be certain that this was not a self reporting bias, with those group members with education/status feeling more confident to self report...
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Re: Atheists and gays live shorter lives

#45  Postby quisquose » May 27, 2011 6:33 pm

A few things that puzzle me about the study that Shrunk linked to:

http://courses.washington.edu/setclass/ ... t%20al.pdf

1. As Rome Existed said: "So why do the more secular/atheist countries appear near the top of life expectancy charts?" It doesn't make sense to think that measures for the group might show the opposite for the measures of the individuals.

2. At what stage in the life-cycle does the study actually measure religiosity? If it measures it at, or close to death, then the study is bound to show a life expectancy benefit since people generally become religious as they knowingly approach death. People dying younger, quicker, more unexpectedly, are bound to include more non-religious than those dying in their old age.

3. People's religious beliefs can change. If the study measures religiosity at 20, then that is precisely the age at which it is most likely to change. It was for me anyway, just after I left school.

4. Although I can understand certain health benefits from having any shared hobby, including religion, as described by Shrunk earlier, the life expectancy improvements in the study just look toooooooo good. :suspicious:
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Re: Atheists and gays live shorter lives

#46  Postby Lazar » May 27, 2011 7:08 pm

quisquose as I mentioned above this phenomena is called the eccological fallacy. It was first discussed in a study which showed that the correlation between number of immigrants and literacy was positive at the state level but at the individual level the correlation between being an immigrant and literacy was negative. This is why it is dangerous to make comparisons from research on groups and apply them to individuals within that group. In this case the effect occured because immigrants tend to move to states with the highest english literacy levels despite generally having lower english literacy levels themselves.

As for four, the correlation between religiousity and health outcomes is well documented and you can find a buch of studies on it in the many religion and mental illness threads here on this forum. The point we come to in all these threads however is that religiosity is not the cause of this but things associated with religiosity.
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Re: Atheists and gays live shorter lives

#47  Postby Shrunk » May 27, 2011 7:37 pm

In addition, it should again be emphasized: The finding is not the religious belief predicts greater longetivity. The finding is only that church attendance, specifically, does so. If you follow a religion but don't go to church regularly, there is no benefit. Obviously, this could be correlated with any number of confounding factors that might explain the association. The investigators did a pretty good job of trying to control for these, as far as I can tell (eg. they ensured that it wasn't simply that people who are in good health are more likely to get out of the house frequently). But it's impossible to control for everything. The major missing factor is trying to identify a secular equivalent to church that could serve as a comparison.

Another thing: The health benefits of a secular society may well affect all citizens alike, even the religious ones. So there is no reason that church attendance, or even religious belief, could not simultaneously have an independent effect on longetivity at an individual level.
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Re: Atheists and gays live shorter lives

#48  Postby talkietoaster » Jun 01, 2011 8:33 am

I find the sexual arguement quickly fails when a religious person talks to me then they end up saying I am a damned liar. Before we go into details, I asked the how old they are when they lost their virginity and the result has varied from 14 - 18 years old. When they ask the question to me I say 24 years old and with my current partner that I have a son with. Then they stop the bullshit arguement there and then.
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Re: Atheists and gays live shorter lives

#49  Postby Vosje » Jun 04, 2011 8:26 am

Just a thought: which is more important? The quantity of life or its quality?
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Re: Atheists and gays live shorter lives

#50  Postby my_wan » Jun 04, 2011 8:52 pm

quisquose wrote:A few things that puzzle me about the study that Shrunk linked to:

http://courses.washington.edu/setclass/ ... t%20al.pdf

1. As Rome Existed said: "So why do the more secular/atheist countries appear near the top of life expectancy charts?" It doesn't make sense to think that measures for the group might show the opposite for the measures of the individuals.
[...]


You have a point here independent of any causal assumptions, so I started looking through that paper. It appears to me to follow the same pattern as the happiness study, where studies purported to show that religious people were happier. What they did was take the essentially the same metrics used in this study to show highly religious people were happier than those that religious people who were less involved, and extrapolated that out to atheist. But a more thorough study involving atheist showed a smiley faced graph, were securely religious people and securely atheistic people were very happy with those that waffled in the middle insecure in their positions tended to form the smiley face in the graph showing unhappiness.

Now, if life expectancies follows this same graph as the happiness rating, then comparing ardent church goers to occasional church goers is obviously going to give a life expectancy boost to the heavy church goers. Yet until you include atheist and their variances in how secure they are with atheism you have said absolutely nothing about atheist.

That people not terribly religious but constantly being freaked by the fears religion imposes would effect their happiness and lifespan would not at all be surprising. Hence it may even be the case that it is religion imposing these fears on religious wafflers that are inducing their decreased happiness and increased mortality rates. Talk about a self fulfilled prophesy! Of course until such studies actually include atheist it is only speculation but the correlation between happiness is well established as is the smiley faced graph in happiness from securely religious to securely atheist. Variance in church attendance is thus know to be wrong is accessing correlations to atheist.
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